After an unbelievable Wild-Card weekend, the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs is upon us. All eight teams left are trying to do anything and everything to earn the right to play in the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.
Saints at Seahawks
In the first meeting between these teams back on December 2nd, the Seahawks played as perfect a game as you can play in a 34-7 domination. Since that game though, New Orleans offense has been making adjustments. No longer are the Saints relying on Drew Brees to single-handedly carry the team.
The Saints finally have a balanced offense, with Mark Ingram coming on as a major weapon. In order for the Saints to win, they’re going to have to get an early lead. That way, Drew Brees won’t be forced to chuck it around against the NFL’s number 1 pass defense, and the Saints would be able to control both the clock and the ball by utilizing Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles in the running game.
The Seahawks should also be looking to get out to an early lead so that Drew Brees would be forced to beat Seattle with the pass, which is virtually impossible. Along with the 12th man, the trademark Seattle rain will be in full force.
If it wasn’t going to rain, the Saints would have an excellent chance for the upset, but there’s only so much they can handle.
Seahawks 20 Saints 17
Colts at Patriots
The sexy pick of the weekend seems to be the Indianapolis Colts pulling off an upset win over Tom Brady and the Patriots in Foxborough. Something magical looks like its happening in Indy where Andrew Luck came back from a 28-point 3rd quarter deficit to beat the Chiefs last Saturday. In his only previous visit to Foxborough last season, Luck and the Colts held their own in the first half trailing 24-17 at halftime. In the 2nd half though, the Patriots outscored Indy 27-7 in a 59-24 win with Andrew Luck throwing 3 interceptions. Luck is certainly hoping for a different outcome this time around.
The Patriots come into this game playing excellent football. New England has won 2 in a row, including a 41-7 drubbing over the Ravens in Baltimore, and a 34-20 win over the Bills in a game LeGarrette Blount ran for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even though Tom Brady’s receiving weapons are as weak as they’ve ever been, the Patriots rushing attack is as good as its been in years so it’s not all going to be on the arm of Brady. If Blount and Stevan Ridley can be effective on the ground, than the Colts will be in a world of trouble.
Even when they’re not playing, the Pats defense continues to lose valuable pieces. Now, Brandon Spikes, arguably New England’s best run defender, joins Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo on the shelf. If Indy is going to win, Andrew Luck is going to have to take care of the football, and the Colts offense is going to have to keep the ball away from Brady.
In the end, the Pats are just too beat up on defense, and Andrew has a lot of luck on his side right now.
Colts 29 Patriots 26
49ers at Panthers
The San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers couldn’t be more similar. Both teams have young dynamic quarterbacks, elite defenses, and strong running games. When these teams met on November 10th, the Panthers snuck out of San Francisco with a 10-9 win. Colin Kaepernick had arguably the worst performance of his career that day completing 11 of 22 passes for 91 yards and an interception. He was also sacked 6 times. Cam Newton wasn’t much better completing 16 of 32 passes for 169 yards and an interception. The difference in that game was a 27-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams which was the only touchdown of the game.
I expect this game to be just as close as the first meeting, and the difference in the game will be which quarterback takes better care of the football. Since San Francisco with Kaepernick have been in this spot before and Newton hasn’t, the advantage to me goes to the 49ers. Also the 49ers offense is clicking right now, while Steve Smith not being close to 100 percent is a big blow to the Carolina offense.
49ers 17 Panthers 14
Chargers at Broncos
If the Denver Broncos could pick the one team they don’t want to face, they would probably pick the San Diego Chargers. Chargers coach Mike McCoy was Peyton Manning’s offensive coordinator last season in Denver, and appears to know his weaknesses. The Broncos have scored over 30 points in all but 3 games, 2 of which came against the Chargers.
San Diego has been playing must win football for over a month and have won 5 consecutive games dating back to September 1st. Philip Rivers is having the best season of his career. Rivers led the NFL in completion percentage at 69.5 percent, and was 2nd with a 105.5 passer rating.
Since this is the 3rd time these teams are squaring off, don’t expect either team to pull away and win big. Surprisingly, the Broncos are favored by 9 points, but it wouldn’t be an upset to see the Chargers win in Denver since they already won there this year.
In the end, Peyton Manning realizes his chances at a 2nd ring are shrinking, and he should do enough to will his team to victory on Sunday.
Broncos 28 Chargers 20
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